Nor the years condemn

22 07 2004

In the pantry of my brain, buy cialis mind Motivation is on the very top shelf. Waaay up the back, buy viagra decease right behind the dusty canisters of Go-gettedness and Rememberability. Now, while we’re cruising around the Noodle larder of behaviors, just bend your eye to the labels on the lower shelves. Check out the first things I encounter when trying to navigate through my day.

Ah, here we can see a pungent batch of Procrastination…one of those fancy re-generating jars that never needs refilling. And look there, it’s the mystical ‘Fall-down-at-the-drop-of-a-hat’ canopic jar! To its right, the ‘Vacant Looks’ urn. Supersized of course. The ‘Out-of-the-blue-weird-thoughts’ jar snuggles closely to the ‘Can’t-manage-to-keep-in-touch-with-friends’ tub. Yes, all these things come to hand quite easily when the brain reaches for my daily life ingredients.

So, the following story may come as some surprise.

In July—brace yourself—in July my brain got out the stepladder, reached a sweaty neuron way up high and back and a little to the left, grabbed the Motivation jar and blew dust off its puny, unused body. I flipped the lid and reactions were instantaneous. Motivation swiveled its shifty eyes and made a dash for my psyche, causing me to dash. Literally.

Still braced? Let’s just change course for a moment.

There’s a perfect heat to New York. It’s as though some smart egg-head has managed to bottle whale sweat and instead of seeding a nice cumulonimbus with it, has simply let it roll and waft over New York like a giant, mammally blanket. Walking out onto the street is like diving headlong into Moby Dick Miso.

What better conditions for a Fun Run?!

In a bout of insanity, with motivation coursing through the blood and tricking me into thinking I was a ‘contender’, I signed up for the Nike ‘Run Hit Wonder’ run in Central Park. A bit of explanation is needed here.

The name ‘Run Hit Wonder’ is a bit of a pun. Are you au fait with the ancient sport of punning? See, at every mile during the race, there was to be a ‘One hit wonder’ band playing. Hmm, that’s not really a pun…more like a clever rhyme. I guess I’m not au fait with punning, either. Just like running.

I signed on the dotted line for the 5k, not the 10k. It was refreshing to see that my motivation did set some limits on insanity. Off I went to pick up my Nike Dri-Fit t-shirt. Unfortunately for me, a disease of astounding marketing moxie was infecting the air on this day. In order to pick up the shirt and electronic time piece to attach to my sneaker, I had to walk through Nike Town, on 57th street. That sounds easy. But it wasn’t.

I am but a putty lemming to the lure of a well-placed brand initiative. Included in the race kit was a voucher for 20% off everything in the Nike Town store. Everything in there. I mean, it’s all so shiny and pretty and colorful and not mine. So, I walked out with $100 worth of slick crapola and a smile on my face that was ever so subtly etched with an uncomfortable MasterCard grimace.

Now I know you’re all just itchin’ to know what bands were playing. So without any further rambling, here is a quick list.

A Flock of Seagulls (of course)
Tommy Tutone
General Public
Tone Loc


For the finale, after-run concert…Devo.

At this point I would like to defend the lumping in of Devo with the aforementioned. I remember many lazy weekends watching Countdown, Australia’s answer to MTV, when I was a kiddie and seeing Devo all the time. Whip it, sure, that’s one hit. But what about Beautiful World? What about Girl U Want? They seemed like hits to me. Weren’t they? But hey, let’s not get into semantics. Gotta finish this story before I lose interest. You might have already. Sorry ’bout that. Anyway…

My first rookie move on the big day was to hurt my knee participating in the pre-race warm up. I have a tendency to get a little hopped up on gym instructor energy, I can’t help it. I don’t lunge normally because my knees suck, but for some reason when this pretty gym dude said lunge I lunged like a real twit. Next thing you know, I twigged my knee into a forward bending lotus with helter-skelter twist. Shake it off, shake it off. It’s ok. Just don’t lunge again. Oh, I did it again! What the hell is wrong with me?

A little marching on the spot loosened it up a bit, so I convinced my knee to continue participating and not be so selfish. For the good of the rest of the conglomeration of body parts that makes up this structure I call Noodle. Not long now. They called the 10k runners to leave Morningside Park and head to the start at the top of Central Park.

Shortly after, it was the 5k-ers. And to the dulcet tones of Tommy Tutone’s poignant ode to Jenny (8675309), we set out to the 5k start line. Picking my position in the pack (near the back), I waited and watched the 10k mob start. It went on and on and on and on. Thousands of damn people. Eventually, they all passed under the start structure and strode past the very first band. The one named after those aquatic, chip-stealing birds that seem ever so closely related those vermin of the sky, pigeons.

Then it was our turn. The absolute highlight for me was that the powers that be had chosen to start the race on a long, grumpy, and most obstinate hill. That really got my spirits up. Nothing better than running on a humid day up a long hill. The Flock wasn’t even playing “I ran” at the time, so I just loped along until the crowd spread out a bit.

I ran convincingly for the first mile, and then the knee sent a message by courier to the brain that said, quite simply, ‘Ow.’

I walked for a spell. Then ran again. Then walked for a spell. Then ran.

‘Really,’ I thought. ‘At this rate, this could turn out to be my worst run around Central Park ever.’

For the past month or so, I’d been running the 4 mile loop, on average, 3 times a week. I thought this would be a breeze. But it was terrible. I had thoughts of quitting. It was hotter than a mammoth’s armpit, and crowded. And quiet. Where was the next damn band!

But, salvation was at hand. You’ll never guess, but about half way through the race, a rather boisterous ska version of ‘Tears of a Clown’ saved me. It was the musical equivalent of a Heimlich maneuver to my choking performance.

I was walking up the cut-across road to the other side of the park when I heard it. Jaunty beat and sticky lyrics. My knee heard it first and forgot about itself.

“Hear that?” it said to the other knee. “Clowns scare us, and we like it when they cry. Let’s run! Let’s run like the wind!”

I turned the corner at the top of the hill and legged it. Juice flowed freely to my outboard motor.

My mind’s eye rewound the video tape. It knows Central Park, you see. Recalls coasting down this hill on my bicycle. Knows it’s all downhill from here. No point saving any reserve energy, I mean, I’d already wasted so much time with that knee. The weeping clown beat was the perfect tempo for the leg turnover and I strode away like a friggin’ maa-chine!

I motored past people, faces blown up with redness and exertion. I didn’t know where this second wind came from, but all sails were up now. Sure, I was hot, but stuff it. Why hold back? My legs could’ve whipped up frozen margaritas; the churn rate was so high. But then…a slow realization growing in my gut.

A memory from around 30 minutes ago.

That long hill…

That long, angry, bully hill with its sing-song, nah-nah, nah-nah-nah voice. I remembered it suddenly. I remembered that about half-way up that hill at the start of the race was the finish line.




Oh, palpitation, singing mournful dirges in my heart. How my chest jangles like quarters in a coin-op washer. And then it gets worse.

One of the great things about this race was that everyone could get their photo taken while running, so they could buy it afterward as a sweet little memento. But these photographers don’t take your photo when you’re all fresh at the start, full of beans and face pinky-white. No. It comes at the end when you’re nearly dead and have just realized that you’ve wasted all your juice running down a hill, when you really need it to run up a hill.

So there I was, grimacing, face poker hot and generating mini-mirages off its surface. I could see the finish, but more prominent were the 5 or so photographers snapping everyone’s photo as they neared the end.

“Look lively!” said the brain. “Photo op off the starboard bow!”

Expletive uttered by the legs to the brain removed for good taste.

I could see the big clock at the end. I knew my time would be bad anyway, what with the knee and the heat and the crowd. But I saw the clock was still less than 38 minutes. Bad time I know, but let’s sprint anyway, eh chaps? So I did. Problem was there was such a crowd at the finish that I ended up in an impromptu oven. People finished and just stopped. A sudden phalanx of people coming to a dead shuffle just after the finish line. I got all claustrophobic and disgusted and a bit panicky.

It’s one thing when the heat of the day runs at you directly. It’s another thing entirely when you’re short like me and stuck in a crowd of heaving, sweaty, runners and the heat from their bodies assaults you, runs rings around you, and licks you most rudely right there in Central Park. And no-one turns up to arrest body heat, believe me.

I threw several gallons of water onto myself trying to cool down, and then made my way back to Morningside Park to sup on free bagels, bananas and trail mix. And water. Plenty of water. I’d finished though. That made me happy. And long before other people. (We’ll ignore the 2,000 or so that finished before me, ok?) I got a nice piece of imitation gold to hang ’round my neck for my trouble, too.

Back at the ranch, Tone Loc came on to the main stage to intrigue us all with his poetic lyricism. But it was Devo I was waiting for. I understand they are a boy band in the old sense of the term i.e. a band that boys usually listen too ’cause girls are deemed to not find ‘em pretty enough. But still, their mere presence here has made me nostalgic. Two guys walk past me with homemade Devo flowerpots on their heads. I wonder for a moment if they ran the race with those on?

The winners are announced and given Gibson guitars for their sheer hot-footedness, and then the moment arrives. Devolution is set to begin. There is a 5 minute sight and sound buildup with fab artsy-type video splenditry to really kick the anticipation in the throat. And then they’re on, dressed alike in blue uniforms and shiny hats, and marching in thumping unison. I tell ya, if doin’ the robot is your thing, you should have been there. Perfect, perfect scene for that.

Most disappointing part of the night? After people heard ‘Whip it’, about half of them left. Idiots. It was only the beginning. The Devo concert went on for ages. Totally blew me away. Exuberance is not just for the young after all. It is for men in matching clothes with flowerpots on their heads. It is for people who don’t care that the bagel in their belly is sitting in a half-chewed, awkward position. It is for people (and bands), who know that they aren’t one-hit wonders. It is for people who know that a creative spark is something to which the bellows of great execution can be held to for decades.

I loved Devo that night. It might have been nostalgia, but who cares? I loved that they were older and slightly changed and knew it. I loved that they wore their enthusiasm like lavishly applied makeup. I loved that I hadn’t recalled many Devo songs before I went, but while there I sang along to more of them than I realized I knew. I’m glad a lot of people left…it allowed me to get closer to the stage. Although I didn’t manage to score a blue flowerpot hat. But there were severe fans there that deserved it more than I. I hope they got one.

It warmed my heart to know it. To know what, you ask?

That although Devo may have been out to pasture all these years, they have not gone to seed. (Hey, when a cliché’s going wrong, you must whip it…and whip it good.) Age may weary them, but not when put in front of a crowd of eager vessels. We devolve with Devo, as is their want. And we do it willingly. Are they not men? They are Devo.

And when it’s all said and done my Motivation, released for that one day in July, 2004, may be laid to rest back on its dusty shelf. But just between you and me, it’s quietly wearing a flowerpot on its head.

Toodle-Noo. Here endeth the missive


©Janeen McCrae 2004



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